Brooklyn boy Will DeMeo is at it again.
The Gravesend-born actor and director has chosen his home borough as the backdrop for his latest venture, a television series based on Brooklyn in the ’80s, aptly called “The Neighborhood.”
The show – currently in production – has been seen filming throughout the ‘hoods DeMeo grew up, in such spots as Night Life Café and La Trattoria Italiana in Sheepshead Bay, Lenny’s Pizza in Bensonhurst, Nick’s Fine Jewelry, Café La Notte, Paradise Catering Hall and Peter C. Labella Funeral Home in Gravesend, Romanoff Restaurant in Coney Island and Benson Scrap Metal in Gowanus.
Locations have also included every day Brooklyn streets, including DeMeo’s mother’s block on West Street (which he named his production company after) as well as Marine Park. The crew also plans to film at the now-shuttered Vegas Diner, a neighborhood staple dating back to 1982 that closed its doors Monday, later this week.
On Friday, June 23, however, the show and its stars were seen shooting in the parking lot of Our Lady of Grace Parish, 385 Avenue W, where, DeMeo said, its crew recreated a good old-fashioned Brooklyn “feast.”
“It felt like you were back at the old feast,” the actor said. “It was a great time. All the girls had their big, poufy hair and all the guys had their jewelry out. It was a total throwback.”
In “The Neighborhood,” DeMeo – who doubles as the series’ lead and director – will star as Brooklyn mob soldier Benny Zerletta. Zerletta, he explained, is forced to choose between fulfilling his mother’s dying wish and a responsibility forced upon him as a made man of a powerful crime family.
His co-stars include such names as James Russo, Louis Lombardi, Paul Ben-Victor, Leo Rossi, AJ Benza, Nick Turturro, Ken Lerner, Christina DeRosa and “Mob Wives” star Natalie Guercio as well as fellow Brooklynites Joe D’Onofrio and Patrick Borriello and local boxing legend Paulie Mallagani.
To boot, neighborhood residents and their kids have been cast as extras for the series.
“It’s been going great,” DeMeo told this paper. “We’re really showing Brooklyn in the ’80s in a very big way – how tough it was, the big poufy hair, the pinkie rings, the music, the cars. It’s all Brooklyn.”
The series is currently shooting scenes for its first two episodes, with the remainder of filming slated for early next year and airtime as early as 2017, according to DeMeo who added that he and the show’s executive producer Sandy Robbins are already “ecstatic” with how the series is shaping up.
“We think all the networks are going to want it because we feel really strongly that we’re doing something that could be the next hit mob street series,” he said. “It’s different from ‘The Sopranos,’ but it has that same type of feel. We’re putting something very realistic together.”
In the meantime, the leading man is gearing up for the July 21 release of “First Kill” – in which he co-stars alongside Hollywood major leaguers like Bruce Willis and Hayden Christensen – as well as the release of “The Life and Death of John Gotti” – in which he stars as Sammy “The Bull” Gravano alongside John Travolta’s John Gotti Sr. – slated for release by the end of this year.
Even better than loving what you do, DeMeo said, is doing it where you love.
“I’m so ecstatic by the way everybody has embraced me and how great it feels to give back to my community,” the star said, thanking longtime supporters like Maria “The Ice Cream Girl” Campanella for their unmatched encouragement. “Everyone has been so supportive and helped out in so many ways. Being on set with friends and family, it really feels like Brooklyn in the ’80s.”
He also made sure to thank Our Lady of Grace, his parish, for their encouragement.
“Our Lady of Grace has been great to me,” DeMeo said. “It’s been very emotional for me to be back there doing what I love.”